CREAMLINE’S historic title run in the PVL Open Conference showed spiker Alyssa Valdez and setter Jia Morado remain as the backbone of the Cool Smashers’ campaign. Jema Galanza’s emergence as a go-to guy should make the team fiercer and tougher when the league’s next season gets going.
The former Adamson U standout shared the Best Open spiker honors with PetroGazz counterpart Jovie Prado and also bagged the conference’s most coveted award – the MVP trophy.
When Valdez went down with injury and had to honor her commitment with the national team, along with Morado, the Cool Smashers hardly felt their absence as Galanza, along with Michele Gumabao, Risa Sato, Kyle Negrito, Kyla Atienza and the rest stepped up, leading to that first-ever sweep of a conference in the league organized by Sports Vision.
“For me, it feels so good since all our hard work, sacrifices bore fruit,” said Galanza, who averaged 14.12 points in the eliminations as the Cool Smashers’ leading scorer. She had 36.43 percent success rate in attacks, landed a norm on 0.37 aces per set, averaged 3.10 digs per set and the top non-libero player in excellent receptions with 47.22 percent efficiency rate.
Posting a sweep of a conference – 20 games in all, is indeed one for the books. And Galanza personified efficiency, Finals MVP and best setter Morado showed consistency, and top libero Kyla Atienza, the most recognizable but oftentimes overlooked player in the court, proved as worthy as the rest with her spectacular saves, digs and all.
Put in Valdez and Gumabao, whose unquestioned leadership, not to mention power and experience, is second to none and with Risa Sato, Celine Domingo, Pau Soriano, Fille Cainglet-Cayetano, Rosemarie Vargas, Heather Guino-o, and Melissa Gohing providing solid backup on and off the court, the crowd favorites could indeed be on their way to reign for a long time.
For Morado, emerging as best setter and Finals MVP did surprise her but the former Ateneo star won’t trade the thrill of clutching a championship trophy with her teammates than basking in personal glory.
“I’m thankful to my teammates – without them, I wouldn’t be able to perform well. For me, to win a championship is not an individual effort – it’s a team effort,” said Morado, whose fifth Best Setter award only validated her claim as one of the country’s best playmakers.
She produced 21 excellent sets in their 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 win against the PetroGazz Angels in Game 1 and put up a 24-set, four-point game in their title-clinching 29-27, 25-22, 27-25 win Saturday, thus netting her the Finals MVP honors.
“I actually didn’t expect to win both awards. I’m thankful but it was never my goal to get them. But winning those individual awards is just a bonus – it isn’t as sweet as the championship,” said Morado.
Behind their historic, if magical run is an animated Thai coach, who would run back and forth pumping the air with full-fisted glee on every hit or save made and whose “Happy, Happy” chants are perhaps the only words one could comprehend during breaks.